My name is Dominique Maasdam, I’m 18 years old and I live in Lincolnshire with my Mum, Dad and my brother. We also have a cat that isn’t ours but has chosen to live with us for the past two years! I’m at college studying performing arts. I love to sing and model.
They’re the most important things about me. What you might also like to know is that I was adopted when I was 3, I have autism and a condition called Foetal Alcohol Syndrome which is caused by a pregnant woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy. All these things cause me some difficulties with things other people take for granted such as getting around safely, understanding dangers, using money etc. I have very bad, low self-esteem and I get bullied all the time. Sometimes I feel worthless. Social activities can be challenging as I don’t always completely understand what a person means or their intentions which can leave me vulnerable. Because of this I am told I have a disability. Ok, that’s fine - I don’t like it but accept it.
I was on a Channel 5 programme called Not So Sweet 16 last year and it showed me going to my prom. Prom wasn’t a positive experience completely and the film showed me having a bit of a meltdown. I didn’t mind this as I think it’s important for people to see how autism can affect you. Having an invisible disability means that sometimes because you “look fine” people don’t understand your difficulties. This programme helped people understand those difficulties I think.
But that was a year ago. People forget quickly. People have stopped being “aware” of my conditions.
Since then I’ve been lucky to get to meet Angel from MOD and do some modelling with her team. They were all amazing and helped me not be so nervous and really encouraged me to be the best I could. I met some other girls on the day who are now my friends. My self-confidence and self-esteem was really low and this helped to lift me and I showed myself and others that despite my limiting conditions I can do what I want to do if I work hard enough.
We all can!
After this, I had interest from a couple of agencies that work with people who have disabilities. However, I found myself being passed over for work and even had the comment “you don’t look disabled enough”. I thought my Mum was going to explode!!! So where do I fit in then? Too disabled for regular model agencies but not disabled enough for disability agencies. I don’t blame the agencies as they can only send you on jobs if the companies want you. It’s the fashion houses that need the education that not all disabilities are visible.
Some fashion brands realise that their buyers all come in different shapes, sizes and abilities and have started using models with obvious disabilities. This is a great start and I’m loving the pictures I’ve seen. But this in itself isn’t enough to be fully inclusive. You can’t be a little bit inclusive and think that’s enough. What about us with invisible disabilities? Don’t we count? Featuring only models with physical and obvious disabilities is causing a discrimination towards those with hidden disabilities so please consider the rest of us who are perfectly able and want to model as we love it so much.
To those that are using models with invisible disabilities - THANK YOU!
We count too, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Please don’t limit me.